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Do we REALLY need to be technical product managers?
Non-techy PM’s aren’t so bad. We have super powers too, you know.
Over the summer,had a great breakdown that covered the technical depth at which he believed product managers should have, varying by the nature of their product.
Here’s a link to the post and an image that breaks it down in a TLDR format - Deepak has a strong technical background and makes some valid points:
As someone who has lived most of my product life in the front-end and mobile app space, seeing quite a few fewer stars in the technical space at first glance might be a little disappointing. I know it was for me at first.
I think there are a few important things to consider if you’re stuck with the feelings (or the vibes from your leadership team) that you’re not technical enough to be a strong product manager.
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Most of us are as technical as we need to be at that moment in time.
Over the years, I’ve built my career around deeply understanding my company’s business, how sales and marketing teams use technology to grow our business, and then finding and delivering solutions to problems these teams face.
More often than not, the need in my orgs has required me to understand these teams’ pain points, be able to get just technical enough to put solutions in layman’s terms, then go to leadership with this knowledge and act as a trusted advisor who can confirm we are building the right things.
If your role in your company doesn’t call for you to become certified in AWS or practically use APIs all day, don’t stress. Remind yourself that you have all of these other superpowers that you can bring to the table. And if needed, remind your leadership of these skills, too.
Unless your engineering team needs it, constantly being technical runs the risk of curbing their creativity/desire to work with you.
We have all been in those meetings with what I will call, “Clearly the Smartest Person in the entire Building” types. Maybe they have a robust resume and have done amazing things. Maybe it’s all valid, and their toolbelt is rich with technical knowledge. They can be great assets to the team…unless they are the type of person who insists on turning the entire dev team into order-takers.
Most software dev/engineers chose their career path because they love solving problems. In this situation, they’re uniquely equipped to solve these problems by taking all of this code and integrations and making something new to solve them.
I think it’s great to have a relationship with these folks on your team if it’s highly collaborative, trusting, and productive. However, I would always err on the side of caution, and I suggest listening to them and taking their advice instead of coming in hot with your technical solutions right away. It should be an interactive experience that builds mutual trust. Once established, you can determine how to support the team best using your technical knowledge.
Only spending time growing technical aptitude can take away time that could be spent more deeply understanding your users.
We are limited in the time we spend on work-related things. Even though some of us may constantly go outside of the workday to sharpen our toolset, we all have the same hours. Considering this situation, we must carefully prioritize what’s important to learn and understand how much time we’re willing to spend on it.
Although I don’t think it would be beneficial to steer people in a direction on topics to learn, I do think it’s worth noting that understanding how to help better your users and their very specific problems with your product is not something you can learn from a book or a webinar.
You can devote all your waking hours working towards the latest and greatest technical certifications, but if you consistently produce products that leave your users unsatisfied and ready to move on because you didn’t understand their needs, will you still feel good about your work as a product person?
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